Thankfully, there are hiking trails for all levels across the US—from easy coastal hikes to more challenging treks to mountain summits. Here are the tips, tricks and tactics you need to plan a family hike that is enjoyable, tear-free and that will have your family eagerly anticipating the next one.
1. PACK LOTS OF SNACKS AND WATER
Hiking and snacks go hand in hand, so bring good snacks, such as trail mix with M&M’s, apple slices and mini muffins. The quality and quantity of snacks are more important than the hike length, elevation or weather conditions. You may not realize this truth until you are on the hiking trail with kids sans snacks. Plenty of water, of course, is also essential. The rule of thumb is a half-liter of water per hour per person.
2. CHOOSE AN ENGAGING TRAIL
Not surprisingly, a boring hike won’t inspire your family to hit the trails again. But it’s easy to get excited about stream crossings, rock scrambles, suspension bridges, waterfalls, wooden boardwalks and swimming holes. AllTrails.com is a great resource for finding appealing hikes.
3. TAKE IT SLOW
Be chill. Your kids and even other adults in the family may not all hike at the same clip, so adapt your pace. Slow-movers will not enjoy hiking if they’re continually having to catch up to the group. It’s not a race, so let the more relaxed-paced members of your pack take the lead on the trails.
4. SET THE BAR LOW
Have realistic expectations when it comes to the abilities of those in your hiking party so that you’re less likely to be disappointed. Start with trails rated as easy or moderate. You want to end the day feeling content and upbeat. If your family hikes just one mile, that’s wonderful. Begin with short trails with mild elevation gains, and up the ante with a more challenging hike next time.
5. BRING COMFORT AND SAFETY ITEMS
Don’t tote huge teddy bears no matter how much your child begs, but if they want to hike with a small plush animal or special toy, that’s fine. In addition to the all-important water and snacks, pack sunblock, bug spray and a travel first-aid kit.
Help ensure your family has a positive experience, and they’ll want to get back outdoors again soon. After a while, it may become second nature to go hiking as a family—at home and on vacation. Your kids may even start to research and plan hikes for you. Oh, to dream!